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In a Great Example of Collaboration, Bistate Tax Created Union Station Gem

March 16, 2015

3/12/2015 6:01 PM | Updated: 3/12/2015 6:01 PM

Twin coffins were featured in the successful "Discovery of King Tut" exhibit last year at Union Station. FILE PHOTO BY DAVID EULITT/THE KANSAS CITY STAR

The latest news about Union Station is almost universally good. Its finances are strong, the building is almost full of rent-paying tenants and people are flocking to exhibits, such as the King Tut show, which drew large crowds in 2014.

Yet many newcomers to this area don’t realize that, just two decades ago, people were talking about tearing down the rapidly deteriorating station.

Fortunately, voters on both sides of the state line in 1996 endorsed a bistate sales tax to fully renovate the historic structure.

Ten years later, though, the saved station’s balance sheet showed that fiscal failure was around the corner. The building was empty far too much of the time. Key civic leaders eventually mobilized to reverse that situation with a formula of attracting more tenants and stronger exhibits while also improving Science City.

The region has not approved another bistate tax. A second attempt failed when voters in Kansas turned down a tax increase to fund Truman Sports Complex upgrades and arts organizations.

That result was regrettable. Collaboration is essential to building a more vibrant region to compete with others around the country.

With more money in the bank, Union Station has become a success story that illustrates what can happen when Kansas and Missouri collaborate on important projects.

SOURCE: The Kansas City Star